April 20, 2010

To Chase or Be Chased

When I was a wee lad, my moms took me to an off-leash dog park. I thought I’d landed in Disneyland and instantaneously started racing around the park trying to get another dog to chase me. Oh, it was great fun as one dog took on the challenge (I’m super fast) and then another and then another. Not only am I mighty speedy, but I know how to use trees and bushes, to make quick turns and change course to fool my predators.

And then, while I raced and darted as fast as I could with a big, fat smile on my face, I looked behind me to see who was following. What started out as one dog had turned into about 15 and at that moment, I could hear my moms yelling my name and feel the gnashing of teeth in the breeze behind me. I panicked, tucked my tail as far as it would go, plastered my ears to my head, and rolled over on my back with a high-pitched yelp whereupon I bared my teeth in hopes the predators would get the message.

It’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt, Gretchen always says, and there have been a number of times I’ve gotten hurt. I suppose it’s my own fault. I was young and naive and well, carried away in the moment of the chase, but I’ve wised up as I’ve aged. Yes, I still like a game of chase, but what I’ve learned is that who chases me must be an elite circle of my friends. Strangers chasing me never works out. Trust me, I’ve learned the hard way.

But chasing is in our blood and we tend to fall into two camps — the chasers and the chasees. I am a chasee, though recently, I’ve come to see the fun of being a chaser. Each of the dogs we walk has their own preference as well and though only a few of them get to practice the chasing and the chased on our outings, they quickly show their true colors when they do.

Take for instance Rosie. Because of Rosie’s fears, she’s rarely let off leash when Gretchen takes her on an outing. When she walks with her brother Tyson, they sometimes go to the tennis courts whereupon Rosie shows that she likes to be the one to chase. Tyson prefers to chase after a ball, but Rosie would just rather chase after Tyson.

But when they walk alone — just Rosie and Gretchen — Rosie isn’t the least bit interested in chasing a ball nor does she like it if Gretchen chases her. They’ll run along side each other in the park, but what Rosie really likes is to chase after treats. This is game Gretchen started months ago as a way to build trust with Rosie. Gretchen tosses the treat, Rosie chases after it and gobbles it up, and then Gretchen calls her back rewarding her with a treat upon her return.

Today they even tried to learn a new trust game. Gretchen held a treat between the bridge of her open legs and encouraged Rosie to walk underneath, curling around to the right to earn the reward. It took many, many attempts, but eventually Rosie did it, which is an amazing step forward for the timid girl.

I mean, when you’re scared of your own shadow, to walk through someone’s legs with them standing over you takes lots and lots of courage. Rosie showed it in spades today and Gretchen was very proud of her. I am, too!

Maybe one day Rosie will even feel confident enough to chase after a ball. Who knows!

Zoe, on the other hand, is all about chasing. Unfortunately, her knee surgery prevents us from really testing out the game. She’s showed some interest, but every time she tries to engage me in a game of frolic, Gretchen puts the kibosh on it. Darn it because I think Zoe and I could really have a rousing came of chase if given half the chance.

Instead, we must pose for photos whereupon Gretchen gets fixated on Zoe’s large and beautiful paws and the way Zoe flops herself down when Gretchen says the word “down.”

I laugh when Gretchen tries to get Zoe to sit or lie down without having a treat in her hand. Zoe ignores Gretchen with amazing panache and though I obey, I giggle watching Zoe gazing off into the distance just waiting for Gretchen to reach in her pocket for a reward. Once the reward is out, though, Zoe is speedy obedient — sitting before the “s” is fully sounded and lying down just with the motion of Gretchen’s hand.

Of course, if Gretchen doesn’t give her the treat right away, Zoe tries all sorts of other tricks to earn the reward…like this one, which Gretchen accidentally captured kind of, sort of!

Now, Saber and Gemma are all about the chase only it’s hard for us to figure out at first who should chase whom.

Eventually, we just take turns!

And yes, we’re playing at a different park today — a small basketball court over by the museum that was apparently sponsored by the now defunct Seattle Supersonics. Gretchen informs me that they moved to Oklahoma City. Alas, there are still remnants of the Sonics in the Central District.

We played our hearts out at the courts, as you can see, and then ended our game of chase for a nice walk through Judkin’s Park. I got dropped off at home while Gretchen walked Gemma and Saber back to their houses.

Next, Gretchen picked up Ollie and Playa for the final walk of the day. Now I know Ollie likes to be chased just as much as I do, but today there wasn’t a chance for any action because the tennis courts by their house were occupied by tennis players. Instead, the two went on a walk whereupon Gretchen surmised that Playa would most likely chase Ollie if given half the chase.

But Playa is part Husky and if there is anything a Husky wants to do more than chase it’s venture out into the world on her own. No chasing unless it’s after an adventure or perhaps a good smell, but most importantly, at her own pace without any part of her tethered to someone or something else.

Today, Gretchen brought a longer leash so Playa could feel as if she were venturing on her own, but given the fact that she’s a Husky and will end up in the next county given half the chance, Playa had to stay on a leash.

They walked back to the Ferdinand Pea Patch this week because Gretchen really wanted to check it out and there, on the bluff just past the pea patch, she tried desperately to get a photo of the two friends with the view of the Sound behind them. Unfortunately, Playa isn’t the best at sitting for very long (that venturing thing) and Ollie, well, he knows there are treats in Gretchen’s hand and he’ll do anything to get them. In fact, she had him leash to her fanny pack and though he sat for a nano-second, he pulled that fanny pack over to Gretchen just to earn the reward.

Finally, on their way back to the car, they stopped at the little field behind the school. Gretchen tried again to get some photos of the two together, but Ollie was only interested in a treat, while Playa practiced sitting as close to Gretchen as she possibly could. She’s now learned that those treats taste pretty darn good!

The rain was supposed to follow us today, but luckily it didn’t chase us down. It looks threatening right now, but I’m kind of hoping the wind chases it away so tomorrow will be beautiful again. See, everything has a need to be chased or do the chasing. Which side do you fall on?

Until tomorrow,


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